14th Annual Paper Theatre Festival

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For the 14th year, the UC San Diego Library will celebrate the history, wonder and awe of Paper Theatre, a popular Victorian era theatrical souvenir and educational toy. Our weekend-long exhibit on August 7, 8 and 9 from noon – 3:oo p.m. in the Seuss Room of Geisel Library will include a large collection of colorful scale model theatres. Special Paper Theatre performances will also be held on Friday, August 7 at 12:30 p.m., and at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9.

About Paper Theatre

Paper theatre, also called “Table Top Theatre” or “Toy Theatre”, dates back to the Victorian Era. At that time, theatrical playhouses printed fine souvenir posters showing architectural elements of their theatre. Aspects of set design were shown on the posters along with drawings of actual actors of the company (shown in costume from a specific production).  Condensed scripts were included in these poster kits and paper doll players were soon seen in lively productions on a table top at home.

Families and hobbyists would cut out the proscenium, the curtain, etc., to create a scale model of that specific theatre. These paper theatre hobbyists ended up learning much about scenic design, lighting effects, sound effects, music, acting, directing, choreography—all through this paper theatre toy, and many aspects of theatre were introduced to producers and performers of all ages.

Theatre-goers often bought these paper theatre posters as souvenirs promoting an actual production they saw.  Those living far from the theatre district ordered paper theatres from a catalog and had them delivered to their small town as an educational toy for the household. A lot of cutting and pasting was involved but hours of educational fun and artistic exploration would follow. The many two-dimensional layers of a paper theatre add up to something with surprising depth and charm.

For more information, contact Scott Paulson at (858) 822-5758 or spaulson@ucsd.edu.

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